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Old 07-19-2017, 11:30 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Journey to The Rockwood Colony

Hello everyone! I am new! I am also new to busses and I must say, I already have Skoolie fever! Here is my story up to this point.

My name is Ben. I am 29 and Im married with 2 kids. I am a woodworker by day and an over the road box truck driver by night. I run a woodworking business from home and my wife Gabby is a Photographer/Graphic Designer. We live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Recently I went to visit my best friend Denny for the first time in several years. He lives on 35 acres out in the boonies of Pineville, Missouri. His parents and all of his siblings live in Tiny Houses there. Long story shortish, we hit it off and it was just like old times immediately. We had such a good time! Such a good time that Denny told us we could build a Tiny House on his property and not pay a dime. I laughed and I told him only if he partnered up with me and started a woodworking business together on his land. Just like that we are moving to Missouri and starting a woodworking business called "The Rockwood Colony"! We also decided that we are starting a YouTube channel also called "The Rockwood Colony" naturally! The channel will be about woodworking and Tiny House/Skoolie life in the country by the Ozarks! Denny and I have always been pretty weird/crazy together so it should be interesting. Oh ya.. this is a Skoolie thread!...

Now onto the part you all have probably been waiting to hear.. WE DECIDED TO LIVE IN A BUS!!!! We were originally going to build a tiny house on a trailer but then we thought hey, we want our house to have a Diesel engine in it . Last Friday we won an auction on govdeals for a 1996 International Amtran dt444 3800 school bus with 110k miles on it that seats 77 passengers for $3004!! This bus is on southern Missouri about an hour away from Denny's acreage which we were already going to this weekend to visit again so it works out perfectly! We are getting our bus straight from a school district and it was still hauling kids last week! I talked to the mechanic that has worked on this bus for the past 20 years for an hour before I bid on it to make sure there was no problems. Not only did he guarantee zero mechanical problems, but he also said it's completely rust free and seems much newer than a '96 from all of the care it has received over the years! The way that he talked about all of their buses he's worked on for many years, I could tell he takes a lot of pride in what he does which made me feel so much better about buying a bus I've never seen in person. I have no pics of our bus yet btw but I will post some ASAP!

I am a bit nervous still because I know many people on different forums have talked about Amtran bodies being cheap and the dt444's having problems. Of course I didn't see any of these threads until after we won the auction but I have high hopes still and I'm hoping it's the unicorn out of all of the similar busses!

Like I said I am new to busses/skoolies so any opinions, feedback, and and advice would be welcomed with open arms! Thanks in advance and thanks for having me! I'm looking forward to getting to know all of you and seeing/hearing about your rigs!

Ps. We aren't moving until our current lease is up next June so we will be driving it 9 hours home and starting the conversion there. I've heard the dt444's can run into problems on long highway trips. Any advice on getting our new bus home safely would be greatly appreciated also!

Pps. This was short right?! . ...sorry.
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Old 07-19-2017, 11:51 AM   #2
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Welcome! a 444e is basically a 7.3l power stroke. If it was maintained well you shouldn't have any trouble making it back to Sioux Falls.if it has an Allison 3000 series transmission you should take it to an international dealer and have 6th gear switched on, if it hasn't been already.

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Old 07-19-2017, 12:04 PM   #3
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444 is an ok engine. And AmTran are all I own. I think they're great buses.
A DT466 is always better, but a 444 isn't the worst engine you could have ended up with. At least its not a Cat or Mercedes.
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Old 07-19-2017, 12:05 PM   #4
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Clarify: Is it a T444 or T444E?

Someone straighten me out if I don't have this quite right:

International produced an indirect injection (IDI) 7.3 Non Turbo engine.

Then a turbocharged 7.3 IDI engine.

And finally a completely new direct injection, turbocharged engine known as the T444E or in Fords as Powerstroke.


I THINK that 1996 you would have the turbo IDI engine. I THINK 1997 was the first year for the T444E.

They are all good engines but the IDI engines don't make near the power that the later T444E/Powerstroke engines do.

BTW: The IDI engines were also installed in Ford products.

Edit: I just read something that has me questioning what year they went from IDI to direct injection. It may have been as early as 1994.
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Old 07-20-2017, 03:52 AM   #5
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Thanks for the welcome! I'm not sure which tranny it has yet but is the alllison 3000 the only transmission for these that you can get the 6th gear switched on or is there others?
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Old 07-20-2017, 03:59 AM   #6
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The said dt444 but they probably meant t444

Quote:
Originally Posted by PNW_Steve View Post
Clarify: Is it a T444 or T444E?

Someone straighten me out if I don't have this quite right:

International produced an indirect injection (IDI) 7.3 Non Turbo engine.

Then a turbocharged 7.3 IDI engine.

And finally a completely new direct injection, turbocharged engine known as the T444E or in Fords as Powerstroke.


I THINK that 1996 you would have the turbo IDI engine. I THINK 1997 was the first year for the T444E.

They are all good engines but the IDI engines don't make near the power that the later T444E/Powerstroke engines do.

BTW: The IDI engines were also installed in Ford products.

Edit: I just read something that has me questioning what year they went from IDI to direct injection. It may have been as early as 1994.
They said dt444 but probably meant t444
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Old 07-20-2017, 10:09 AM   #7
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I believe that it needs to be a 3000 series or higher to have the 6th gear option. 3000 and up series transmissions are electronically controlled

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Old 07-20-2017, 10:53 AM   #8
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At least some of the 2000 series come as 6 speeds. My 2200MH has all.
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Old 07-20-2017, 11:01 AM   #9
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At least some of the 2000 series come as 6 speeds. My 2200MH has all.
I was hoping someone would chime in on this subject. Thanks!

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Old 07-20-2017, 11:18 AM   #10
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At least some of the 2000 series come as 6 speeds. My 2200MH has all.
Thank you! I can't get a hold of the mechanic anymore to find out what tranny is in it so I guess I'll have to just find out in person. It will be like opening up a Christmas present! ...hopefully I don't get socks...
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Old 07-20-2017, 11:24 AM   #11
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Anyone know what the interior height will be in this bus?
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Old 07-20-2017, 04:18 PM   #12
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So I have some good and some bad news. The good news is I got a hold of the mechanic finally today and he told me that previously when we talked about the specs on my bus he gave me the wrong info on accident. It turns out that my bus has a dt466, not a dt444!!!!! That is great news to me! But the bad news is I found out that it does in fact have a at545 transmission in it... I'm kind of worried about it because I will be driving it for upwards of 10 hours all interstate to get it home.

Should I be worried???
Anyone know what I'll be looking at for max speed?
Will I murder this tranny if I floor it the entire way?
Does anyone have any advice on anything I can do to prevent problems on my drive?

Thank you to anyone who has some answers for me! I'm leaving at noon tomorrow to pick it up. I have to drive my 11 hour overnight shift and then when I get home I have to jump straight in the car and drive 8-9 hours down to Missouri... haha, I seriously don't mind driving mega distances in one day so this should be fun! Wish me luck!
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Old 07-20-2017, 04:22 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Rockwood Colony View Post
So I have some good and some bad news. The good news is I got a hold of the mechanic finally today and he told me that previously when we talked about the specs on my bus he gave me the wrong info on accident. It turns out that my bus has a dt466, not a dt444!!!!! That is great news to me! But the bad news is I found out that it does in fact have a at545 transmission in it... I'm kind of worried about it because I will be driving it for upwards of 10 hours all interstate to get it home.

Should I be worried???
Anyone know what I'll be looking at for max speed?
Will I murder this tranny if I floor it the entire way?
Does anyone have any advice on anything I can do to prevent problems on my drive?

Thank you to anyone who has some answers for me! I'm leaving at noon tomorrow to pick it up. I have to drive my 11 hour overnight shift and then when I get home I have to jump straight in the car and drive 8-9 hours down to Missouri... haha, I seriously don't mind driving mega distances in one day so this should be fun! Wish me luck!
PLENTY of 466's came with 545's.
CrazyCal the moderator drove one from TN to CA, so I wouldn't worry.
When/IF the trans ever dies upgrade to a 643!
I'd be way more excited about the 466!
WHat I'd do would be get it up to MAX speed once you're out on the interstate and its warmed up and all. find out what max rpm is and back off 200 rpm or so and see how it does.
You'll be fine.
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Old 07-20-2017, 04:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Rockwood Colony View Post
So I have some good and some bad news. The good news is I got a hold of the mechanic finally today and he told me that previously when we talked about the specs on my bus he gave me the wrong info on accident. It turns out that my bus has a dt466, not a dt444!!!!! That is great news to me! But the bad news is I found out that it does in fact have a at545 transmission in it... I'm kind of worried about it because I will be driving it for upwards of 10 hours all interstate to get it home.

Should I be worried???
Anyone know what I'll be looking at for max speed?
Will I murder this tranny if I floor it the entire way?
Does anyone have any advice on anything I can do to prevent problems on my drive?

Thank you to anyone who has some answers for me! I'm leaving at noon tomorrow to pick it up. I have to drive my 11 hour overnight shift and then when I get home I have to jump straight in the car and drive 8-9 hours down to Missouri... haha, I seriously don't mind driving mega distances in one day so this should be fun! Wish me luck!
I have an 86 37 passenger bluebird that I've run at 65mph for extended periods and it didn't seem to bother it in the least. I hope that gives you a little more confidence

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Old 07-20-2017, 04:26 PM   #15
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I have an 86 37 passenger bluebird that I've run at 65mph for extended periods and it didn't seem to bother it in the least. I hope that gives you a little more confidence

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It really depends on what the gearing in the rear end is, as that will dictate what your top speed will be

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Old 07-20-2017, 05:10 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EastCoastCB View Post
PLENTY of 466's came with 545's.
CrazyCal the moderator drove one from TN to CA, so I wouldn't worry.
When/IF the trans ever dies upgrade to a 643!
I'd be way more excited about the 466!
WHat I'd do would be get it up to MAX speed once you're out on the interstate and its warmed up and all. find out what max rpm is and back off 200 rpm or so and see how it does.
You'll be fine.
Thank you! That does make me feel better. He told me too that they have another at545 that is pulled out with about 100k miles on it and he said they'd sell it to me for $100................. I was thinking that was too good of a deal to pass up but I'm not so sure now. It would be nice to have. How many people can say they have a back up tranny just in case right? Maybe more than I think probably.
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Old 07-20-2017, 05:11 PM   #17
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I wouldn't pay for one. If they threw it in free I'd take it though.
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Old 07-20-2017, 05:12 PM   #18
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I have an 86 37 passenger bluebird that I've run at 65mph for extended periods and it didn't seem to bother it in the least. I hope that gives you a little more confidence

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I assuming your bluebird has the same setup as mine. Thanks! That does make me feel better.
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Old 07-20-2017, 05:12 PM   #19
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It really depends on what the gearing in the rear end is, as that will dictate what your top speed will be

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How do I check that? What should I look for? What's good and what's bad?
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Old 07-20-2017, 05:19 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Rockwood Colony View Post
How do I check that? What should I look for? What's good and what's bad?
The chassis vin # should be able to provide that info. Just call the dealer and have them look it up for you

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